Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Level 57 vs Level 75

I was struggling to find the time to visit LOTRO's latest retrial, so SOE helpfully decided to make my decision making easier by taking my EQ2 server down for most of the day yesterday. As a result, I spent the afternoon in Middle Earth and ended up hitting level 57 in Moria, before signing in to Norrath and hitting level 75 on my Dirge later in the evening. A few random observations from the extremely rapid flip-flop:

Variations on an Archetype
Allarond and Lyriana have a bit in common - both are melee characters who rely in part on life-draining special attacks to stay alive. On the other hand, Allarond is a Tolkien race (for obvious reasons), wears heavy armor, and specializes in hitting multiple targets at once. By contrast, Lyriana is a winged Fae with stealth, group buffs, and even some crowd control.

Probably the most jarring shift was due to LOTRO's combat pacing. Moria features increased use of healing mobs, who will heal themselves to full health if you do not interrupt them. The only problem is, you might be waiting for your current attack to finish, followed by an auto-attack, between the time when you push the interrupt button and the time when you actually attempt to interrupt the foe. Also, the Champion's interrupt requires a combo-point equivalent, which means you're screwed if the attack you are in the middle of using consumed all of your Fervour.

The bottom line is that, when fighting the healing foes, you need to hold DPS (with at least one Fervour point available) at the 45% mark so you can interrupt the enemy in time, even though this means that the last few percent until they try to heal happens very very slowly. It's a clunky mechanic that feels like you're exploiting the predictable AI (which doesn't know to trick you by trying or heal earlier or later). It's a somewhat jarring design that didn't matter as much before the increased emphasis on interrupts, and I can see why they're planning on changing it.

If you are in a guild with a guild hall, travel in EQ2 is much much easier than travel in LOTRO. You have one-click access to most of the zones in the game (some of them do require that you visit the local druid ring first), and usually some form of intra-zone travel once you arrive. Overall, I barely notice travel times in EQ2.

By contrast, Allarond is still working on his Moria quest deeds, and therefore has a very limited repertoire of "swift travel" points to work with. I have a racial teleport to Bree, a guild teleport to the border of the Shire, and the potential to get another teleport if I buy a house, but within Moria I am limited to a one-hour cooldown hearthstone-equivalent and whatever Invincible Goat routes I'm willing to sit AFK for.

During my session yesterday, I completed a quest deed that allows return swift-travel from the Dolven-View, the major settlement on the West side of the mines, with the 21st Hall, in the center of the mines. I'd previously unlocked the route going the other direction, but Moria quests have a bad habit of sending you back and forth between the two, and there was no quick way to make the return trip. Ironically, I actually prefer this system, where you have to work for the travel routes rather than having them handed out for free, to the WoW and EQ2 model, it just needs one more piece to the puzzle to make it a bit more workable.

Fortunately, Turbine is planning a revamp to the game's reputation system which may include more rep-based teleports - this could largely solve the problem.

Level Up-grades
Level 57 in LOTRO unlocks a new class trait slot, so I had to visit a bard in town to pick which of my unlocked options to fill that with. Otherwise, the level up was automatic - none of my skills need to be upgraded by hand.

By contrast, EQ2 has three whole crafting professions devoted to spell/skill upgrades for every time players level up. Lyriana has already maxxed the tradeskill that makes her upgrades, but the rare loam that she needs for current tier spells is massively expensive due to very high demand; half the classes in the game want a dozen "expert"-quality upgrades each from the same rare harvesting drop. The "journeyman" quality spells Lyriana can make with non-rare ingredients are, in many cases, inferior to the previous tier spells that I am supposedly upgrading from.

So, it was off to the Broker to buy Adept quality spells (which sit inbetween Journeyman and Expert), and, in some cases, delaying the use of my new skill ranks. I'll be slowly upgrading the spells on to Expert level as I obtain the loams to do so.

An extra juggling act
Overall, I'm not sure that I would deliberately set myself up to jump games like this on any regular basis. It's perhaps a bit too distracting to deal with the different combat paces and mechanics. That said, both games ultimately offer relatively comparable experiences.

In LOTRO, I was branching out from the 21st Hall and even formed an ad-hoc fellowship to deal with the bugs at Balin's camp (a quest which is really a bit too tough for its listed level). In EQ2 I paid my first visit to the main camp of the Order of Rime. Both experiences were high quality, fun content.

That's not a horrible choice to have to make.

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